But do you feel what you say?

“If one looks at the bilingual speaker holistically…Phenomena such as interference, mixing and switching become the subject of analysis, helping us to discover patterns and relationships with other features of speech. A non-native accent and the choice of a wrong word (perhaps a loan translation from the other language) are more likely to be detected in bilinguals…” (Hoffman 1991)

I disagree with the above quote.  It isn’t an interference, or a lack of transfer (both pejorative and prescriptivist terms), it is that we bilinguals have more tools in our tool box. We have more language to pull from and as such our language is more dynamic.  I sometimes purposefully and sometimes unconsciously move syntax, use vocabulary that “doesn’t belong” for a monolingual speaker—but to me does. I express myself as best I can, and feel my language, the ethos of my language, which cannot be taught.  Who gets to decide what is native and that it is my ideal is to be a “native”—what does that even mean? My language isn’t a set standard nor do I desire it to be.

I have been very frustrated and impatient the last few months as the man I am dating learns Spanish.  I use Spanish as my language of love and affection, while I use English as a bureaucratic tool to maneuver a white society (not that Spanish isn’t also imperialistic–it just manifests differently in my daily life).  As such when my gentleman speaks to me in Spanish, a language he is learning as an adult I swoon, but I know he doesn’t feel what he is saying.  As in he is in such an early stage of language development that he doesn’t feel the spirit of the language yet.  He says things in Spanish, I am almost certain he would never say in English, they are sweet things but he doesn’t understand the impact his words have on me. The translation is not one-to-one because the literal definition does not include emotional interpretation.

I imagine him reaching a high level of fluency before he gains the ideology, the mentality of the language. I imagine it happening in the marketplace somewhere in Spanish speaking Mesoamerica, him realizing that he has been speaking without understanding the emotion and realizing that his language abilities are not what he believes. That he will come home and tell me the story of how he realized he hadn’t felt a word, felt the emotion of the word, until the context thrusted itself on him.  It is at this moment of language insecurity where his capabilities will actually be at their highest.  The bilingual speaker is always in that flux of wondering “how can I use all my tools to fully express myself with all the accurate emotion that is available at my disposal”.
The moment he realizes, that he hasn’t mastered the ethos yet and wonders if he is ever capable of it (as I wonder it myself daily and try to manipulate language to communicate and connect) is when I will trust what he says even more fully.

One thought on “But do you feel what you say?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *